Creator / Roberto Bolaño

Roberto Bolaño (1953 – 2003) was a Chilean writer and poet. He originally wrote poetry, but changed to write fiction for money (after all, he had a family to feed). Despite this, he continued to think of himself primarily as a poet. He had a kind of tendency of taking an Ensemble Dark Horse from one book (or sometimes just a minor character) and writing a story around that character.

Even though he was from Chile, he spent very little time in the country and lived in Spain. He was also very critical of the writers in Chile, particularly Isabel Allende, decrying their (perceived) lack of talent. He was also a vocal opponent of the idea that it was possible for art to be apolitical, and this likely fed into his distaste for the Chilean literary establishment, whom he felt to have been deferential to the country's authoritarian government. (Bolaño himself was a committed leftist.) One of the few Latin American authors Bolaño expressed much praise for was Jorge Luis Borges.

Bolaño died in 2003 of liver failure. It had been rumoured that he had suffered from opiate addiction at a younger age, but his widow has refuted this. Despite having been dead for thirteen years, he is still publishing books. That shows you how prolific he was. Many of his published works have yet to be published in English, presumably because bringing them all out at once would run the risk of over-saturating the market with new (in English) Bolaño works. New works are still being discovered posthumously and published in Spanish, too; The Spirit of Science Fiction had its original Spanish-language publication in 2016.

Do not confuse with Roberto Gómez Bolaños, also known as Chespirito.

Books written by Bolaño with their own pages here:

Tropes in the works of Roberto Bolaño:

  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: In “Police Rat”, Pepe worries because since a rat dared to kill another rat, soon it will become commonplace.
  • Author Avatar: Arturo Belano, who share a lot of bibliographic details with Bolaño.
  • Author Tract: “Literature + Illness = Illness”, “The Myths of Cthulhu”.
  • Badass Bookworm: Arturo Belano.
  • Better as Friends: Udo and Ingeborn at the end of The Third Reich.
  • Black Comedy: A major staple of his work.
  • Crapsack World: Women in 2666's Santa Teresa are pretty much constantly at risk of being raped and murdered. Given that Santa Teresa is a stand-in for Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where literally thousands of women have been murdered since 1993, this is pretty much a Foregone Conclusion. ("The Part About the Crimes" [see Overly Long Gag below] goes into this in depth).
  • Diary: The Third Reich.
  • Doorstopper: 2666 clocks in at well over 1000 pages. Bolaño had planned another 200 pages before suffering Author Existence Failure. The Savage Detectives is also a doorstopper, though it's not as long as 2666.
  • Expy: According to this review, Father Urrutia Lacroix of By Night in Chile is modelled on the priest and right-wing literary critic José Miguel Ibañez Langlois.
  • Intellectual Animal: All the rats in “Police Rat”.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: "Sensisi".
  • Literary Allusion Title: “The Myths of Cthulhu”, which is not about the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • The Mafiya: "Snow".
  • Meaningful Name: Auxilio Lacouture (her name is Spanish for "help").
  • The Quest: Most of his books deal with one or more characters traveling in search of something (a place, a person, sometimes they don't even know what they're looking for). The success rate is... not so good.
  • Real-Time Strategy: The main character of The Third Reich is a huge player of wargames, a hobby shared by the author too.
  • Reclusive Artist: In-Universe, Benno von Archimboldi in 2666.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: “Police Rat”.
  • Self-Deprecation: Belano is just like Bolaño... except a bit more loser.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The protagonist in “Jim”.
  • Spin-Offspring: “Police Rat” has as main character Pepe the Cop, niece of Josephine the Singer.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: By Night in Chile is this to other Chilean writers during the Pinochet years.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Deconstructed in Nazi Literature in the Americas. Nazis and Neo-Nazis tend to appear on his books, whether literally (Distant Star, 2666) or metaphorically (The Third Reich).
  • Wall of Text: Done deliberately in By Night in Chile. The overwhelming majority of the novella is a single paragraph. The second paragraph is a single sentence. Bolaño does this in some of his other novels as well, though not to the same extent. For example some paragraphs in 2666 go on for several pages.
  • Wasteland Elder: Héctor Pereda in “The Insufferable Gaucho”.
  • Wicked Weasel: “Police Rat”.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: "The Colonel's Son". It's mostly a retelling of Return of the Living Dead 3, of all things.